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Island Vulnerability
http://www.islandvulnerability.org/livelihoods.html

Unique Island Livelihoods

Continuing work which has been published as:

  • Kelman, I. 2005. "Unique Island Livelihoods". Poster at An Overview of Canadian Rural Research, Twillingate, Newfoundland, Canada, 12 October 2005, abstract (9 kb in PDF).

  • Kelman, I. 2007. "Sustainable Livelihoods from Natural Heritage on Islands". Island Studies Journal, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 101-114, full text (447 kb in PDF).

With thanks to Sandy Abrahams, Godfrey Baldacchino, Bob Conrich, James Lewis, Nadine McCarthy, Iain Orr, UNESCO's Small Islands Voice, and UNESCO's Wise Practices for material and discussions.


Contents

Abstract
Introduction
Definitions
Framework
Issues Arising
Conclusions
References

Contemplating Wellington.

Contemplating livelihoods of Wellington, New Zealand.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)


Abstract

Due to characteristics including size, isolation, and limitations of land-based resources, islands and island societies frequently face significant development and sustainability challenges. Islands have significant advantages too. Large economic and governance structures, rarely feasible on islands, can produce inflexible systems with poor response time to sudden change or to trends. In contrast, kinship-based communities prevalent on many islands can rapidly make and implement decisions based on interpersonal trust--which, in turn, can have its own disadvantages. As well, if implemented properly, unique island heritage can be used to generate livelihoods without ruining that heritage.

Despite the challenges, islands therefore often have livelihood opportunities unavailable elsewhere. Past mistakes should be learned to avoid recurrence. For example, Nauru enjoyed phosphate earnings from their independence yet, egged on by others also benefiting from the phosphate, the country planned poorly for a post-phosphate future. In contrast, apparent disadvantages can be turned into advantages.

Daily and seasonal difficulties, such as a limited freshwater supply threatened by waste and salinisation, should be tackled as opportunities, such as to develop economically viable and small-scale desalinisation processes.

Some opportunities are being exploited, from vehicles running on coconut oil on Vanuatu to marketing bottled water from St Vincent and the Grenadines. Creativity or circumstances have yielded others, such as Tristan da Cunha's stamps and Tuvalu's .tv top-level internet domain name, although not all such endeavours have been managed appropriately. Some island schemes raise ethical questions, for instance selling university certificates, promoting offshore banking with the potential for money laundering, and accepting overseas aid in exchange for votes in international fora. Contradictions are exposed in establishing eco-tourism on low-lying islands reached mainly by long jet flights.

In proposing, debating, developing, testing, and fully implementing livelihoods which might be unique to small islands, trade-offs, ethical issues, ironies, risks, and opportunities emerge. Determining which unique island livelihoods might promote sustainability and which would be more harmful than helpful requires careful analysis while considering how to integrate such livelihoods with opportunities not unique to small islands.

Frigate bird on the Galapagos Islands.

Frigate bird on the Galapagos Islands.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)




Introduction

Due to characteristics including size, isolation, and limitations of land-based resources, islands and island societies frequently face significant development and sustainability challenges. Islands have significant advantages too. Large economic and governance structures, rarely feasible on islands, can produce inflexible systems with poor response time to sudden change or to trends.

In contrast, kinship-based communities prevalent on many islands can rapidly make and implement decisions based on interpersonal trust--which, in turn, can have its own disadvantages. James Lewis on 23 June 2009 writes:

It could be the same "kinship-based communities prevalent on many islands (that) can rapidly make and implement decisions based on interpersonal trust" that may lead to "covert complicity, secrecy and concealment". The example of Jersey, still ongoing and concerning the former childrens' care home of Haut de la Garenne, is relevant not only because of the abuse, or the investigation into it, but the attempted cover up and obstruction that has transpired. Nearly all my sources are media based because I know of no others but Helen Pidd in The Guardian of 2 August 2008 wrote: "It is all too easy to make fun of Jersey's parochialism. But I was surprised to see how many of the island's most powerful figures shared the same surname. For example, in the legal system, the two top jobs are taken by the Bailache brothers. William is the Attorney General and Sir Philip is Bailif" (my upper case capitals). She refers also to the police believing their investigation was being obstructed by the authorities, "the island's tendency to brush awkward problems under the carpet", and the role of the media against the Jersey establishment who were pretending "there was nothing going on".

Another approach, if implemented properly, is that unique island heritage can be used to generate livelihoods without ruining that heritage. Yet attempts to do so, at times, end up forgetting the limitations and do end up ruining the heritage.

In proposing, debating, developing, testing, and fully implementing livelihoods which might be unique to islands, trade-offs, ethical issues, ironies, risks, and opportunities emerge. Determining which unique island livelihoods might promote sustainability and which would be more harmful than helpful requires careful analysis while considering how to integrate such livelihoods with opportunities not unique to islands.

This topic is explored here. First, definitions are given in order to understand the meaning and context of "unique island livelihoods". Then, a framework is proposed for describing potentially unique island livelihoods followed by descriptions of examples. Issues emerging from these examples are summarised followed by conclusions putting the material into a wider perspective.

Feedback, critique, and further examples regarding the information on this page would be welcome.

Geese taking off on Chatham Island, New Zealand.

Bird watching on Chatham Island, New Zealand.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)




Definitions

Island

A set definition for terms such as "small", "island", "small island", or "isolated" does not exist in a geographical context. Many authors (e.g., Briguglio et al., 1996; Crowards, 2002; King, 1993; Ratter and Sandner, 1996; Streeten, 1993) have discussed definitions of these terms using criteria such as population size; land area; arable land area; gross national product; environmental influence, for example defining an island to be a landmass which does not create its own climate or ecology due to its volume; and characteristics of social geography, such as the presence of a unique people or culture. Royle (2001) provides a particularly insightful discussion about the practical problems encountered when defining an "island" according to the dictionary.

Scoglietto, Italy.

Scoglietto, Italy: Island or rock?
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2003.)

One suggestion would be to consider islands and isolated geographies as lacking an adequate land transportation network connected to a larger land mass. Land transportation networks for products and people tend to be cheaper than air and quicker than water transportation networks while wire-based communication and energy lifelines are often easier to construct and maintain across land. For sustainability, such lifelines should be minimised along with the need for transport of products. The lack of a land transportation unit thus implies an island or isolated geography as a self-contained human system or a self-contained society. This approach to the definition may be appealing, but then encounters the quagmire of defining the key phrases "adequate", "larger land mass", and "self-contained". After all, no geographic location on the planet is unaffected by events and actions elsewhere.

Two further provisos emerge. First, the development oftransportation routes--such as bridges, tunnels, and causeways, but potentially also including frequent air or boat connections--might create ambiguities and "pseudo-islands". Characteristics might lie in the transition zone between those of islands and those of non-islands. Holyhead, Prince Edward Island, Skye, and Singapore have "fixed links" with the "mainland". In many cases, fears are expressed regarding the loss of island characteristics due to the fixed link, while others suggest that the livelihoods-boosting fixed link will preserve island life, livelihoods, and culture (Baldacchino, 2007). An interesting case is Orkney where many outlying islands such as Burray and South Ronaldsay, are connected to the "Mainland", the main island of Orkney, by causeways with a road. Have the outlying islands lost any of their "islandness" due to the connection with the island Mainland? Has the Mainland been affected? Could contrasts be made with Shetland where few outlying islands have land connections to the Mainland?

Canvey Island, U.K. on the Thames Estuary downstream from London.

Canvey Island, U.K. on the Thames Estuary downstream from London.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999.)

Another interesting U.K. example is Canvey Island on the Thames Estuary downstream from London. Most of Canvey Island, with a population of over 36,000, is below the mean high water mark, so the island is surrounded by a concrete wall. Two roads connect the island to the mainland, but they both pass through the same intersection (roundabout) just before going off-island. The sense of island community and island spirit are strong, making it difficult to claim that the fixed link makes Canvey a non-island.

The second proviso is that some islands belong to more than one state, such as Haiti and the Dominican Republic forming Hispaniola and New Guinea split between the country of Papua New Guinea and the Indonesian region (for the moment) of Irian Jaya. Irrespective of the land borders between states, Hispaniola and New Guinea could easily be considered islands. Whether or not "an adequate land transportation network" across each international border exists may be irrelevant since it would not be "connecting with a larger land mass".

Finally, as James Lewis (personal communication; see also Lewis, 1999) explains, "A common misconception is that islands are single entities. Island countries include both island groups and archipelagos under one national identity (though not necessarily with common ethnicity). For example, it is often put that Fiji or Tonga are each an island, whereas they both contain several hundred islands." Dispersiveness and number of entities forming an island political entity, conglomerate, archipelago, or group are important considerations to address when trying to define an island or island entity.

In the end, it is perhaps best to answer the question "What is an island?" with an intuitive concept of a comparatively small landmass, generally without an adequate land transportation network connecting with a larger land mass. This statement is not a definition but an attempt to describe an intuitive concept. Obvious examples of islands are the Chatham Islands (New Zealand), Kiribati, Lakshadweep (India), the Philippines' constituents, St. Lucia, Sardinia (Italy), Tasmania (Australia), Tristan da Cunha (U.K.), and Vancouver Island (Canada). Africa, Brazil, Galicia, Kamchatka, Nebraska, and Tanzania are clearly not islands, at least in the sense of physical geography. Brazil and Galicia, for example, are arguably cultural and linguistic islands.

Plenty of ambiguities emerge, such as Andorra, Antarctica, Australia, Ceuta (Spain), Greenland, Sri Lanka, Madagascar, Malaysia, Vatican City, and Venice. Monaco is certainly a small state, but could it really be considered to be an island or an isolated geography, other than one of decadence and ugly development? Despite the questions which may not have lucid answers, none of these locations detracts from the intuitive approach, the list of obvious islands, and the list of obvious non-islands. The fairest way of dealing with these ambiguities is to suggest that if a location or people feel part of the global island community or wish to become involved in the global island community for a specific issue, then they should not be excluded. The onus is not on the island community either to legalistically and irrefutably define itself or to include and exclude members at its whim. Instead, the onus is on any physical or human geographical entity to decide to be part of the island community. Anyone who asks would be accepted as part of the standard and essential exchange process which must pervade sustainability, development, environmental management, and vulnerability management activities.

Monaco.

Monaco is certainly a small state, but is it an isolated geography?
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2009.)



Livelihoods

Livelihoods are the ways in which people manage to obtain needed and desired resources, individually and communally (e.g. Chambers, 1995; Chambers and Conway, 1992; Moser et al., 2001). Examples of resources are food, water, clothing, and shelter. Livelihoods are not just forms of waged employment, but encompass formal and informal activities undertaken in order to meet basic needs or to expand beyond subsistence living to more luxuries.

A livelihoods approach tries to understand the contexts of resources available and resources used to yield the standard of living observed. The livelihoods approach defines “poverty” not as a lack of financial means, but as a lack of opportunities, choices, and flexibility for using resources and for developing different livelihoods. This approach includes the following factors to determine state of affluence:

  • The context of vulnerabilities and resiliences observed.

  • Strategies adopted to support themselves individually and communally.

  • Capital assets possessed to maintain livelihoods.

  • Preferred or sought outcomes in terms of long-term survival.

Fishing livelihood in Malta

Fishing livelihood in Malta
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2008.)



Unique Island Livelihoods

In exploring island livelihoods, the modifier of "unique" is important for understanding island characteristics and how those might differ from non-island locations. Many island livelihoods are readily transferable to non-islands, while many non-island livelihoods are readily transferable to islands. Natural resource-based livelihoods including farming, fishing, mining, and forestry frequently fall into this category.

This project, though, is particularly interested in possibilities which use island characteristics to generate opportunities that might not be feasible in the absence of island characteristics. Hence, “unique island livelihoods” refers to livelihoods being undertaken on islands which would not be viable elsewhere, particularly outside of an island environment.

Another class of unique livelihoods exists, that of livelihoods which would not be viable outside of a local context. For example, one mountain in the world is the highest place on Earth, which is currently Mount Everest, drawing in tourists, both trekkers who wish to visit Everest Base Camp and climbers who wish to reach the mountain’s summit. The appeal, and income generated from it, would not exist outside of the local context of the place where the highest point on Earth exists.

Some islands have similar appeal, such as the ecology and biology of the Galapagos Islands, the historical site of Pearl Harbour in Hawai’i, and the statues of Easter Island. Those phenomena lead to unique livelihoods for specific islands. These situations somewhat overlap with the unique island livelihoods explored for this project and are important. Therefore, they are considered here, but the main focus for “unique” refers to livelihoods which apply to many island contexts but which would not be viable outside an island context.


Framework

Based on examples, a framework has been adopted which divides livelihood activities into:

  • Unique products based on location.

  • Unique products based on innovation.

  • Services.

Within these categories, information is given for each example on its implementation, including current and proposed possibilities, its uniqueness, and ethical issues which emerge.



Unique products based on location

Human products

Implementation

Island culture is highly valued as a product, including arts, crafts, music, musical instruments, and representations of unique island culture such as the Easter Island statues.

Uniqueness

Location specific, but not unique to islands.

Ethics

As long the culture and people making the products are not over-exploited or denigrated, and are not impacted by the ethical issues discussed under "natural products", human and cultural products present few ethical concerns.

Beach craft on St. Lucia.

Beach craft on St. Lucia. An island livelihood, a livelihood on an island, or artistic recreation?
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1998.)

National icons, such as stamps, coins, medals, and licence plates

Implementation

Several islands use this livelihood, for instance the British Overseas Territories. Many island states use another country’s currency, such as Nauru using the Australian dollar, or have pooled currency with other island states, such as the East Caribbean dollar. Stamps would be easier to produce and market than other icons and many islands could better tap into this form of income generation. The interest in and value of icons could be enhanced by creating royalty, if it does not already exist, and developing the status and profile of the new royal family.

Uniqueness

This livelihood is not unique to islands, as any jurisdiction could implement it. Income from stamps, for example, is gained by the Vatican City and the United Nations while stamps served political purposes for areas including Nagaland and Tibet.

Ethics

Few significant concerns emerge from this livelihood, even if icons are released which are fake (e.g. Gough Island coins or licence plates) or issued for fictional jurisdictions (e.g. medals for Atlantis submarine commanders). Investigating the legitimacy of icons is straightforward for the purchaser. Meanwhile, fake, forged, or fictional icons have their own status amongst collectors, including philatelists, numismatists, and children enjoying "fun money" or tricycle licence plates. Ethical concerns could emerge in spin-offs from this livelihood, such as producing forged currency intending to masquerade as real money.

Faroes icons

Faroes icons: worth more than face value? The colours have been altered from the original.

Natural products

Implementation

Examples:

  • Bottled water from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

  • Honey from Colonsay, Scotland.

  • In the same way that icons are considered to be of interest, other island products are considered to be interest and generate income from renewable resources. Examples other than bottled water which might be considered to taste better or to have healing properties would be bottled air (similar marketing to bottled water), soap, plants, plant products, animals, and animal products other than honey.

Uniqueness

Location specific, but not unique to islands.

Ethics

As long as resources are not over-exploited and are not impacted by the issues discussed in the next sentences, products such as bottled water and soap would present few ethical concerns. Selling plants and animals and their derivatives could run into significant ethical concerns, as covered by international treaties. Selling bottled air and similar products might be considered unethical, but as long as the product benefits are not presented dishonestly, little inherently wrong emerges.

Colonsay honey.

Colonsay honey
(Copyright and courtesy of Isle of Colonsay Wildflower Honey.)

Official documents such as passports, university degrees, police records, or certificates for births, marriages, or divorces along with titles such as "Lord" or "Professor". As well, some people might be interested in purchasing entry to and the right of residency in a country.

Implementation

Such ventures would be low-cost but potentially high earners.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood, but the smaller and more isolated states such as islands might be better placed to make it succeed.

Ethics

Significant fundamental ethical concerns arise, such livelihoods are illegal under many national and international laws, and conflict with other countries might result, such as issuing official documents or residency to criminals or sending university degrees to anyone who buys one. Regarding official documents, island citizens would be harmed by loss of credibility and difficulty in getting their documents accepted internationally. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid.



Unique products based on innovation

Energy

Implementation

Examples:

  • Irish and British islands have pioneered development and testing of renewable energy supplies, including tidal and wind power, with mixed results. Other possibilities include passive solar, active solar, and biomass energy supplies.

  • Coconut-oil fuelled vehicles is a new, developing industry. Fuels based on oil from vegetation plentiful on islands should also be considered for electricity generation, aircraft, and shipping.

Energy constraints are a major concern for islands, especially as it adds to the cost of transporting goods and people. Developing, implementing, testing, and improving small-scale alternative energy sources would not only reduce the cost of living on islands and remove a strong inhibitor to development, but would also yield products which could be sold elsewhere for further income.

Uniqueness

This livelihood would not need to be developed on islands, but islands have the strongest impetus to pursue such products.

Ethics

No significant ethical concerns result, although care must be taken that removing the energy constraint on island development would not lead to rapid, inappropriate development.

Solar energy over the western isles of Ireland.

Solar energy over the western isles of Ireland.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1997.)

Transportation

Implementation

Transport access for people and goods is often a major concern for islands. Developing, implementing, testing, and improving transport access solutions, from tunnelling and bridge design and technology to more efficient aircraft and watercraft, would not only reduce the cost of living on islands and remove a strong inhibitor to development, but would also yield products which could be sold elsewhere for further income.

Uniqueness

This livelihood would not need to be developed on islands, but islands have the strongest impetus to pursue such products.

Ethics

No significant ethical concerns result, although care must be taken that removing the transport constraint on island access would not lead to rapid, inappropriate development or other change.

Inter-island travel on Shetland:  the Islander aircraft.

Inter-island travel on Shetland: the Islander aircraft.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1996.)

Water resources

Implementation

Water resources are often a major concern for islands, but islands are surrounded by water. Developing, implementing, testing, and improving small-scale water treatment systems would not only reduce the cost of living on islands and remove a strong inhibitor to development, but would also yield products which could be sold elsewhere for further income. Such systems would primarily be focused on desalination, for islands surrounded by the sea, but could also include purification for islands surrounded by freshwater and for desalinated water. The objective is to provide drinking water on a small scale from the plentiful resource of water surrounding an island, thereby passing the difficulties encountered when tapping groundwater and surface water sources.

Uniqueness

This livelihood would not need to be developed on islands, but islands have the strongest impetus to pursue such products.

Ethics

No significant ethical concerns result, although care must be taken that removing the water constraint on island development would not lead to rapid, inappropriate development.

Part of the aqueduct system supplying parts of Tenerife with fresh water.

Part of the aqueduct system supplying parts of Tenerife with fresh water.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)



Services

These service markets can be highly competitive, but such activities could presumably be administered by expert third parties anywhere in the world while paying the island a commission on all revenues generated.

Company registrations

Implementation

For a fee, companies are registered in the island country, receiving a postal address, mail forwarding, and a bank account.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood, but the smaller and more isolated states such as islands might be better placed to make it succeed.

Ethics

In principle, this livelihood would provide a useful service while generating income. In practice, it would be used for mainly tax evasion, money laundering, fraud, consumer exploitation, and businesses illegal elsewhere. Any system of investigating applicants would be beyond the resources of most island states and would be open to abuse. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid.

Conferences

Implementation

Examples:

  • Using Twillingate, Newfoundland as a conference centre for "Big Lessons from Small Places" back-to-back with "An Overview of Canadian Rural Research" in October 2005.

  • ISISA runs Islands of the World conferences in island locations.

  • SICRI runs Small Island Cultures conferences in island locations.

Uniqueness

Location specific, but not unique to islands.

Ethics

In principle, this livelihood can work and has worked. In practice, many issues arise, as listed in the next section, which suggest that tourism is often not a viable livelihood or, at minimum, it must be implemented with immense case.

Twillingate, Newfoundland island conference, October 2005.

Twillingate, Newfoundland island conference, October 2005.
(From the website of the
Canadian Rural Revitalization Foundation.)

Dangerous industries including waste management

Implementation

Remote islands could accept waste from other places, toxic in order to reduce danger to the waste generator or non-toxic to provide a storage space. Dangerous industries or industries with low probabilities but high consequences of failure--for example nuclear power plants, chemical factories, rocket launching, or genetic engineering laboratories (e.g. Wells, 1896)--could be located on islands. Pacific islands were used by the U.S.A. and France for nuclear bomb testing, although the first nuclear bomb was exploded at an isolated, inland site: Los Alamos, New Mexico. Similarly, the USSR used the Semipalatinsk Test Site in Kazakhstan. Several Pacific islands have been involved in debates about whether or not to accept nuclear waste in exchange for money.

Uniqueness

Could be done anywhere. The main criterion would be remoteness, for health/safety and protection/access reasons, rather than insularity.

Ethics

Significant fundamental ethical issues exist with islands adopting this livelihood. Rather than active interest in it, islands have actively opposed waste management and dangerous industries, from the Chagos Archipelago objecting to the military base to Caribbean islands opposing nuclear waste shipments to Pacific islanders furious at the use of their land for nuclear tests. Even if the livelihood were accepted, implementing it could lead to long-term health and safety issues for the islanders and potentially make the island uninhabitable or unliveable. This livelihood is not recommended.

Conventional waste landfill on Upolu, Samoa.

Conventional waste landfill on Upolu, Samoa. Imagine toxic waste.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)

Information services (with island-wide broadband, possibly wireless).

Implementation

An island-wide business is set up for people to contract out research queries regarding internet access; for example, academic research queries, an encyclopaedia-type question-and-answer service, or corporate contracts for clients who need information summaries, bibliographies, or other information resources.

Uniqueness

Could be done anywhere.

Ethics

No inherent ethical difficulties should result as long the company has a robust ethics policy and refuses jobs which might violate that policy. As people become more web- and search-engine-literature, demand for this service might decline. Additionally, the cost of building and maintaining the internet infrastructure, particularly in remote locations, might exceed the livelihoods possibilities for income generation.

Internet businesses

Implementation

Island states could provide refuge for less reputable internet businesses or internet sites banned in many countries such as pornography, gambling, revisionist history, violence advocacy, hacking instructions, mail-order drug sales, or credit card number lists.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood, but the smaller and more isolated states such as islands might be better placed to make it succeed.

Ethics

Significant fundamental ethical concerns arise, such livelihoods might become illegal under international law, and conflict with other countries might result, such as if a site described how to release toxic gas on the Paris Métro, detailed security arrangements for a head of state, or site denied the Rwandan genocide of 1995. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid.

Internet domain names (top-level).

Implementation

Examples:

  • .as for American Samoa has been used for Scandinavian companies because A/S represents the Scandinavian language form of "Inc" or "Ltd".

  • .fm for Federated States of Micronesia has been used for radio companies.

  • .nu for Niue because "nu" means "now" in several European languages, so http://[word].nu yields "News Now", "Furniture Now", or "Concert Tickets Now".

  • .to for Tonga has been used as a preposition,
    e.g. http://come.to/[specific name] and http://go.to/[specific name]

  • .tv for Tuvalu has appeal for television companies.

  • .dc has been proposed for Tristan da Cunha to appeal to businesses in the American capital.

Uniqueness

Location specific, but not unique to islands.

Ethics

Islanders would need to be able to purchase top-level domain names with their island's extension at a reasonable price, well below what off-island businesses should be charged. Therefore, islands gain from income with loss of local opportunity while off-island businesses gain from having attractive domain names.

Prisons

Implementation

Examples are Alcatraz (U.S.A.), Devil's Island (France), Elba (Italy), Robben Island (South Africa), Rock Island (U.S.A.), and St. Helena (U.K.). Australia was used by the U.K. as an island prison. Some island prisons have been used for convicted criminals. Some island prisons have been used for people deemed undesirable by contemporary standards at the time, such as lepers, those accused of but not charged with terrorism offences, asylum seekers, indigenous children who (it was claimed) needed to be "modernised", and people with mental health challenges. Other island prisons were inadvertent when sailors became shipwrecked. In 2009, Pacific islands were suggested as places to relocate people accused by the USA but not charged with terrorism offences. Some of the people objected to being relocated to those locations.

Uniqueness

Could be done anywhere, but islands' remoteness and access issues have clear advantages.

Ethics

Ethical advantages and disadvantages exist with islands adopting this livelihood. If the water surrounding the island creates the prison, then prisoners might have the possibility of more humane treatment including skill development. Rehabilitation in a near-normal environment would be easier than one with stone walls and metal cells. In contrast, if an inhabited island builds a prison to accept overseas prisoners in exchange for payment, then ethical concerns arise. This livelihood could be implemented appropriately, but would be open to significant possibilities for abuse.

Overseas aid in exchange for votes in international fora

Implementation

Examples:

  • Several small island developing states have accepted aid from Japan in exchange for joining the International Whaling Commission and voting in favour of Japan.

  • Several small island developing states have accepted aid from Taiwan in exchange for officially recognising Taiwan. Others have accepted aid from China in exchange for declining to officially recognise Taiwan.

  • Possibilities exist for islands to auction off their votes in international debate, to require payment to ratify treaties, or to extend or withhold diplomatic recognition according to the highest bidder.

  • Rights to natural resources, such as fishing or mining, could be auctioned.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood and significant political and diplomatic trading occurs at all levels, by all countries, for all reasons.

Ethics

Significant fundamental ethical concerns arise from this approach and conflict are likely to result with other countries or agencies. For example, voting for whaling could disrupt a neighbour's eco-tourism or could lead to tourism boycotts by environmentalists. For example, the Cyber Diver News Network runs boycotts of islands for political reasons. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid. The main concern is that the majority of countries, organisations, and agencies are involved in such activities, for instance diplomatic dancing regarding recognition and diplomatic relations, trading votes in international fora, exchanging aid for environmental and social activities, and withholding approval of international treaties until non-related issues are clarified. Some activities are legal and ethical under existing international law and ethics treaties while others are a violation of those treaties. Demanding that islands entirely avoid this lucrative income generator without tackling the shenanigans of other countries would be hypocritical and unfair.

Plaque on Tonga thanking Japan for aid used for road improvement.

Tonga has not sold out on the whaling issue. Tonga banned humpback whale hunting in 1978, is currently not a member of the International Whaling Commission, and according to Orams (2002) is considering the potential economic gains and possible impacts from whale watching tourism.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)

Overseas financial services

Implementation

Jersey, Isle of Man, and the Turks and Caicos Islands are examples of island jurisdictions offering financial service havens, including banking with lower taxes, banking for secrecy, credit cards, and investments. Companies pay a fee to the country for this service in exchange for advantages which could include minimal monitoring accountability, lower taxes, and laxer consumer protection regulations.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood, but the smaller and more isolated states such as islands might be better placed to make it succeed. The non-islands of Switzerland and Liechtenstein have implemented this livelihood to some degree.

Ethics

In principle, this livelihood would provide a useful service while generating income. In practice, it would be used for mainly tax evasion, money laundering, fraud, consumer exploitation, and businesses illegal elsewhere. Any system of investigating applicants would be beyond the resources of most island states and would be open to abuse. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid, unless only certain aspects were adopted. For example, Switzerland's banking secrecy laws have been eroded in recent years suggested that offering secrecy is inappropriate. Similarly, national and international law enforcement agencies are increasingly requesting and gaining access to financial records anywhere in the world, suggesting that any financial services must aim to actively reduce the possibilities for illegal activities. In contrast, tax havens appear to be acceptable, at least by the power brokers and more affluent members of society who have the options of gaining from such tax havens. Therefore, while noting the long-term damage which tax evasion, legitimised or otherwise, causes to societies trying to achieve a balance between adequate government services and incentives for business achievement, tax havens might be one aspect of this livelihood which is currently acceptable and which could be pursued.

Ship and aircraft registrations

Implementation

For a fee, companies can register ships or aircraft with an island state.

Uniqueness

Any country could gain income from this livelihood, but the smaller and more isolated states such as islands might be better placed to make it succeed. The non-islands of Panama and Liberia already implement this livelihood.

Ethics

In principle, this livelihood would provide a useful service while generating income. In practice, it would be used for mainly evading safety, labour, and tax laws and for covering up businesses illegal elsewhere. Any system of investigating applicants would be beyond the resources of most island states and would be open to abuse. Due to the violation of basic ethics, but also noting that such activities would probably yield more trouble than gain, this livelihood option would likely not be viable and would be strongly recommended to avoid.

Telecentres

Implementation

In places with good phone connections, through the internet or otherwise, call centres could be located on islands.

Uniqueness

Could be done anywhere.

Ethics

No inherent ethical difficulties should result as long the company has a robust ethics policy and refuses jobs which might violate that policy. Two concerns to consider are (a) the lack of skill required for, and potential for exploitation of, the employees in most telecentres and (b) the challenge of providing a high level of customer service through a remote telecentre approach.

Telecommuting and telebusiness centres (see Bibby, 1995).

Implementation

With island-wide broadband internet, possibly wireless, along with good phone connections, many islands could market themselves as being ideal through an attractive lifestyle combined with one's own telebusiness. Supply issues, such as printer ink cartridges or computer repair parts, could inhibit business operations along with the speed of mail, if the business relies on that. If tax incentives are considered, the trade-offs become more complicated.

Uniqueness

Could be done anywhere.

Ethics

No inherent ethical difficulties should result as long the telebusinesses were ethical. The cost of building and maintaining the internet infrastructure, particularly in remote locations, might exceed the possibilities for generating telebusinesses.

Tourism (could be eco-tourism or sustainable tourism)

Implementation

Examples:

  • The Maldives have adopted a one island, one resort policy.

  • The Galapagos Islands' tourism industry is heavily controlled and a high fee exists for non-residents entering the park.

  • The Faroes and two British islands have been examined regarding Managing Vulnerabilities of Small Island Heritage, one aspect of which is tourism.

Uniqueness

Location specific, but not unique to islands.

Ethics

In principle, this livelihood can work and has worked. In practice, many issues arise, as listed in the next section, which suggest that tourism is often not a viable livelihood or, at minimum, it must be implemented with immense case.

Cliffs in the bird reserve of Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.

Spectacular scenery, hiking, and bird watching on Rathlin Island, Northern Ireland.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2003.)


Issues Arising

Some aspects, specific examples, and further interpretation of the island livelihoods discussed above and more are detailed and expanded in:

Lewis, J. 2009. Perfidy in Paradise? Islands' Exogenous Appropriation and Indigenous Maladministration. Some Recent and Continuing Reported Cases, full text (74 kb in PDF).

Questions emerging from the examples include:

  • How many of the livelihoods suggested are purely for income generation rather than for better living, improved livelihoods, or improved livelihoods choice? Is the bias towards income generation a concern considering that the livelihoods in more affluent locations are based almost exclusively on income generation?

  • How many of the livelihoods create a strong dependency on off-island consumers? Is such a strong dependency on external factors dangerous or does it acknowledge that no location is a complete island and that all island livelihoods would be impacted by external factors, including environmental change, economic change, social change, and waxing and waning interest in islands?

  • How many of the livelihoods would pave the way for over-exploitation, by outsiders or by islanders, thereby harming island livelihoods and communities in the long-term?

  • Could trade-offs be better articulated? For example, livelihoods in many affluent countries do not meet the ethical standards suggested here as being appropriate for island livelihoods. Would it be appropriate to try to raise non-island ethical standards, to uphold island ethics irrespective of non-island ethics, or to lower island ethical standards? As well, some island livelihoods, such as reaching eco-tourism destinations through long jet flights, produce short-term gains for long-term costs. How could the gains and costs be balanced? How could internal gains and costs be compared with external gains and costs? Should greater weight be given to internal gains and costs or to external gains and costs? Communities might prefer lower standards of living and poorer economies in exchange for preserving culture, values, people, and islandness. How could such trade-offs be determined and analysed?

  • The current paradigm of globalisation aims for reduced economic and legal barriers to international trade along with increased flow of goods, services, and labour. Does this paradigm serve unique island livelihoods? In particular, the approach currently taken to trade globalisation assumes economies of scale, yet this assumption rarely applies in the island context because an absolute maximum exists for the scale and that ceiling is relatively low compared to the global context. What new theories and practices regarding trade and globalisation emerge given the practical constraints which exist for island economies of scale?

  • How many of the livelihoods suggested would result in one-industry islands which creates significant vulnerabilities? For example, a call centre exists or disappears at the whim of the company owning it. A conference-centred island could suffer if teleconferencing becomes more popular or if travel-related health and safety concerns overcame people's interest in travelling and in conferences. Before implementing livelihoods or creating choices, the potential to increase vulnerabilities and to decrease resiliences must be considered.

Such issues must be addressed before final recommendations and conclusions could be reached for a specific island, island site, or island organization.

A group on a heritage hike on Barbados.

Learning about Barbados' supergun: does heritage tourism create dependency?
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 1999.)


Conclusions

The examples of island livelihoods found and the issues raised in the discussion suggest that no island livelihoods could yet be described as being unique to islands. Several are location-specific and several are enhanced by island characteristics, but none result specifically from island environments. Part of this result is the nature of livelihoods. People are able to adapt to their location, environment, and resources and to make it liveable--from small phosphate rocks such as Nauru to vast hot deserts such as the Sahara to places with no sunlight in winter such as above the arctic circle. For island livelihoods, islanders are able to overcome the challenges presented by their environment whilst using island advantages, just as non-islanders are able to overcome the challenges presented by their environment whilst using the advantages.

Prisons provide a useful illustration. Island characteristics include remoteness and being surrounded by water, which are formidable barriers to people not used to them--although water becomes a swift and easy transportation route for people used to that. These characteristics frequently result in islands being used as prisons. Non-island geographic locations yield similar results, such as mountain valleys and desert oases. Where the characteristics of remoteness and a barrier do not exist geographically, human beings have created them: building walls and security systems to create a barrier which also serves to create remoteness. The island characteristics have enhanced prisons, but prisons are not unique to islands. Other locations serve equally well, and people adapt their environments to create the characteristics that they need. Similarly, the same island characteristics which might make islands attractive for waste disposal has led the Australian outback and Nevada mountains to be suggested for nuclear waste storage.

In any case, the island barriers are overcome by islanders who adapt to their environment and exploit it for livelihoods. Therefore, any perceived barriers which lead to livelihoods function only within specific contexts.

An additional observation is the dominance of service-oriented livelihoods in the list provided. Do island characteristics generally promote service industries rather than products? Or do many more product examples exist which have not been listed? One issue is that any environment, island or non-island, is so rich that it will inevitably provide numerous, desirable products which might be considered unique. Is Colonsay honey any more exclusive or individual than small farms producing their own honey in New England? Apart from to nissologists, would island medals or licence plates have more inherent value simply because they come from an island? Rarity and the challenge of acquiring these products add value, but small, isolated non-island jurisdictions have similar characteristics--unless the argument would be that small, isolated jurisdictions are islands. In that case, the relative rarity and the challenge of acquiring island products could be an inherently island characteristic which would support product-based livelihoods.

Many of the suggested island livelihoods yield significant ethical concerns. The remoteness of islands and their physical separation from land makes it easier in some cases to evade international pressure, prominence, or interest in pursuing entrepreneurs who might have crossed ethical boundaries. Suggestions have also been made that islanders might be more trusting, needy, or easier to manipulate for less ethical livelihoods. Although specific island cases exist where these comments are accurate, many specific non-island cases also exist where these comments are accurate. Highlighting "remoteness from ethics" or "naivety" as inevitable island characteristics leading to specific livelihoods is patronising and hypocritical. As with any location and any group of people, temptations exist to permit exploitation for short-term economic gain, including lower ethical standards. Islanders and non-islanders must be equally careful to ensure that livelihoods are ethical, sustainable, and achievable.

Overall, it appears as if island characteristics do not create unique livelihoods but could be used to put island communities in a strong position to develop, and to promote, certain livelihoods. Opportunities should be grasped. Promoting a product or service as a special island, or location-specific, product or service would help such opportunities yield their full potential. The balance is to try to avoid false branding or false claims. Care should be taken to ensure that high ethical standards are achieved and that the long-term consequences of adopting certain livelihoods are understood and desired.

A hotel in front of petrochemical storage just outside of Apia, Samoa.

Two livelihoods near Apia, Samoa: industry and tourism. When a hotel is sited in front of petrochemical storage, what are the ethics and ironies?
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)


References

Baldacchino, G. (ed.) 2007. Bridging Islands: The Impact of Fixed Links. Acorn Press, Charlottetown, Canada.

Bibby, A. 1995. Teleworking: Thirteen Journeys to the Future of Work. Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, Lisbon, Portugal and London, U.K.

Briguglio, L., R. Butler, D. Harrison, and W.L. Filho. 1996. Sustainable Tourism in Islands and Small States: Case Studies. Pinter, London/New York.

Chambers, R. 1995. "Poverty and Livelihoods: Whose Reality counts?". Environment & Urbanization, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 173-204.

Chambers, R. and G.R. Conway. 1992, although dated December 1991. Sustainable Rural Livelihoods: Practical Concepts for the 21st Century, Discussion Paper 296, Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, University of Sussex.

Crowards, T. 2002. "Defining the Category of 'Small' States". Journal of International Development, vol. 14, issue 2 (March), pp. 143-179.

King, R. 1993. "The Geographical Fascination of Islands", pp. 13-37 in D.G. Lockhart, D. Drakakis-Smith, and J. Schembri (eds.)., 1993, The Development Process in Small Island States, Routledge, London/New York.

Lewis, J. 1999. Development in Disaster-prone Places: Studies of Vulnerability. Intermediate Technology Publications, London, U.K.

Moser, C., A. Norton, T. Conway, C. Ferguson, and P. Vizard. 2001. To Claim Our Rights: Livelihood Security, Human Rights and Sustainable Development. Overseas Development Institute, London, U.K.

Orams, M.B. 2002. "Humpback Whales in Tonga: An Economic Resource for Tourism". Coastal Management, vol. 30, no. 4, pp. 361-380.

Ratter, B.M.W. and G. Sandner. 1996. "Small Islands, Large Questions: Introduction to Special Issue". Geographische Zeitschrift, vol. 84, issue 2, pp. 63-66.

Royle, S.A. 2001. A Geography of Islands: Small Island Insularity. Routledge, London, U.K.

Streeten, P. 1993. "The Special Problems of Small Countries". World Development, vol. 21, no. 2, pp. 197-202.

Wells, H.G. 1896. The Island of Dr. Moreau. Republished 1988, Penguin, New York, U.S.A.

Kapiti Island, New Zealand.

Kapiti Island, New Zealand.
(Copyright Ilan Kelman 2004.)


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